Category: Miscellaneous

Christmas Crazy

Each year, I forget just how insanely busy the holiday season can be. Maybe some of that is because it gets even busier each year. As my kids grow up, their schedules begin to fill up. When they were little, it was easy to just say “They’ll do anything Denisa and I want to do.” We had complete control over the scheduling and agendas. But as kids get older, they have these things called “expectations.” They want to do things they like, not just whatever you want.

This affects even simple things like getting presents. As kids get older, the things they want get more elaborate, expensive, and particular. Gone are the days when I could just waltz down the toy aisle in the store, grab something off the shelf, and wrap it up when I got home, confident and secure in the knowledge that my kid would think it was the Best Toy Ever. (Well, they’re gone for Tomas. They’re still very much there for MC, thankfully. DC is somewhere in the middle these days . . .)

But that’s not all. Denisa is teaching three writing classes, which is a whole ton of work more than even a typical class. (Writing classes, surprisingly perhaps, mean students do a lot of writing. And when they do that writing, they expect to have it graded. Grading writing involves reading and evaluating writing. And that takes a lot more time than correcting a multiple choice test.)

And I’m the library director now, which means I have more responsibilities at work. It’s the sort of thing that just creeps up on you year after year, and sometimes you don’t notice all these extra obligations until they all come crashing around your head at times when you’re already stretched thin.

Like the holidays.

So if I seem a bit more terse than my usual self, or if I seem otherwise distracted, it’s because I’m trying to keep all these balls in the air, and they each keep getting closer and closer to the falling to the ground before I can grab them and fling them up again. Which is perhaps why when I got an email from the pr department of my church asking me to get ready to “Light the World,” my response was perhaps not as delicate, spiritual, or polite as it ought to have been. (Especially with this whole time of year being connected to honoring the Savior.)

What can I say? I’m like a rubber band. Pretty darn stretchy, until you stretch me too far and I snap.

If you’re feeling like I am, know you’re not alone. Keep on juggling, and good luck with it. I still love this time of year, and I’ll love it even more once the presents are bought and wrapped (and I can get this @$@#! grant application off my plate).

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Holidays as an Adult vs. Holidays as a Kid

We carved pumpkins and decorated Halloween cookies yesterday as a family. Good times, as always, though (as always) we really had to push to actually get those traditions in. (As I posted last year, I believe: Halloween is a tough holiday. You get no time off for it, but it has almost as many traditions around it these days as Christmas does.)

Some times it can be really tempting to just not worry about cookies for a year. Or to let pumpkins slide. But on the flip side, as I was pondering that reality last night, I also was putting MC to bed. She’s five, and she’s in full on Halloween Excitement mode.

It occurred to me that one or two years of activities totally sets the tone for holidays and traditions at that age. For MC, Halloween has always been about pumpkins and cookies. But if Denisa and I had missed a year or two, she would have no real concept of them as “traditions.”

This isn’t making sense. Maybe an example from my own life will help clarify it.

In my head, I also associate pumpkin stew with Halloween. It’s a fun meal to make, and I remember my family making it “all the time” when I was growing up. (Take some stew, put it in a pumpkin, bake it in the oven. Though now that I think of it, I think a few times it was just “put already baked stew into a pumpkin.”) In any case, I’m not sure how many times my mom actually made that meal around Halloween. It might have been only three or four times total.

But time works differently when you don’t have as many years to compare things to. If Denisa and I skip a year of pumpkin carving, that’s just one year out of a slew of them. Skip one as a kid, and that’s a quarter or a fifth of all the Halloweens you’ve experienced.

Not like any of us needed any more incentives to do those traditions, but there you have it.

One of the main reasons I do these things with my family is because I remember doing them and loving them as a kid myself. One of the big perks as a parent is being able to pass on fun memories of your childhood to your kids, in the hopes that they’ll enjoy those same things. Sometimes that works. Other times it backfires. But when it involves fun and games and candy, experience has led me to believe it almost always goes fine.

In any case, another round of pumpkins are in the books! For reference, Tomas did a Rubiks cube, DC did an owl design she came up with on her own, MC and Denisa did an owl they found online, and I did a Cheshire Cat I saw a picture of online as well.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

A Review of Saints: The New Church-Authorized Latter-day Saint History

On September 4, 2018, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a new history: Saints, volume 1. (The whole history is planned to be 4 volumes in all.) The printed it in paper and electronically, and they even added it to the Gospel Library app that’s freely available on almost all electronic devices. You can read the entirety online, as well.

I started reading it when it was published, and I’ve been plugging away at it since then, only recently finishing it. Reading through it prompted a number of thoughts, and I wanted to try and get those down in one form or another. This post may get a bit rambly. Apologies in advance.

First, I have to say I wish the Church would use this text as the basis for its Sunday School lessons for a year. I know that would be a big departure from the tried and true method of “one book of scripture per year” approach that’s been used since I can remember, but I feel having the entire church body study this history together would do a lot of good. Why?

For one thing, it would address a problem that’s becoming more and more pervasive. Opponents to the church love to play gotcha with church members, looking for items in the church’s history that aren’t regularly highlighted, and then trotting those items out, telling members, “See? The church is hiding this from you!” This would include things including seer stones, multiple accounts of the First Vision, Joseph Smith’s plural wives, freemasonry, and more.

And in many ways, the detractors have a point. These elements are not highlighted in church lessons or church talks. They have been addressed now and then over the years, but it isn’t surprising that many or most church members haven’t heard of them.

When members finally do encounter them, they turn to the most logical resource to find out more: Google. And (speaking as a trained librarian), Google can really do nothing but let them down. Its algorithms focus on site popularity and search engine optimization. It doesn’t discern between “accurate” and “inaccurate”. What’s worse, the church detractors argue “You can’t listen to what the Church has said about it. They’re just going to lie to you.” And so questioners wander off into the only other sites that pop up when you Google Latter-day Saint history: sites largely created by people seeking to tear the church down.

It would make so much more sense to have church members go through those tough topics together and discuss them as a group. Pull the bandaid off once and for all, and bring it all out into the open. I’ve never been one to shy away from the more sensitive topics, confident that truth is truth, and I’ve always come through each challenge stronger than before it. Of course, it also helps that I’ve never been one to believe our leaders our infallible. I think we generally fumble along as best we can, and that applied to the early days just as it applies to today.

Another problem with the church’s approach of publishing these things online and in apps is that it’s too easy for them to be ignored. For example, the church published its Gospel Topics essays, including an important one on racism in the church. It has this important quote:

Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects unrighteous actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.

But despite this publication, I still occasionally hear of members who cling to past explanations for the priesthood ban, and who refuse to believe anything that goes against those beliefs. When pointed to the online articles, the articles are dismissed because they’re “hidden away online somewhere.”

It’s time to stop hiding. And while publishing those essays and this history are laudable, it’ll take more to get membership as a whole to actually pay attention. And I don’t believe this history works as a “read this if you encounter questions” fix. If members are upset about what they’ve heard about Joseph Smith, they’re not going to turn to a 500+ page book. They’re going to Google. But if they read the book first, the end result might be quite different.

Don’t get me wrong. Saints doesn’t paint church history in an always favorable light. It doesn’t shy away from problematic areas, and that’s one of the reasons I liked it. Of course, detractors will no doubt continue to claim that it’s making things too tidy, but I think it’s done an admirable job of trying to piece history together into a narrative you can make some sense out of. Better yet, it provides references and footnotes for everything. (Yay!)

The Church has had detractors since it began, and many were willing to write just about anything to discredit the religion. Simply citing something because it’s contemporary to the church history doesn’t give it any more likelihood of being true compared to something else written at the same time. The fact that Saints includes both the good and the bad makes its account that much more believable.

Really, my sole complaint was that the writing itself was overly simplistic, but I’m sure that was done on purpose. The church wants this account to be easily understood by everyone at all levels, and so they made it very approachable. Sometimes that means it comes across a bit like an “easy reader,” but it doesn’t discount the facts laid out in it at all.

What did I think, after reading the book as a whole? I came away with a new appreciation for just how difficult those early years of the church were. How much struggling there was to find their way. There seems to be a tendency in many religious people to assume people who lived in an earlier era had more access to God, whether through angels or revelation or through direct appearances by a Supreme Being. And while there is some record of that in the early church, for the vast majority of it, they’re getting by the same way we get by today: by making decisions that seem good at the time, but prove to be far more problematic.

It was a reminder to me that it’s a mistake to assume earlier members had it easier. That somehow revelation was more direct back then. Instead, they tried multiple solutions to different problems. Some went well, some were disastrous. Members were flawed. They caused almost as many problems for themselves as others did.

Kind of like today.

Overall, I found it illuminating and well executed. There were even some things that I hadn’t encountered before, and the narrative is well pieced together. I strongly recommend members and non-members alike to read it if they’d like a fuller view of the history of the church. 8/10

Writing Update

It’s been a while since I’ve checked in with all of you to fill you in on how the writing’s going. Today seemed as good a day as any to do that, so here we go.

I took most of August off while I was gallivanting around Europe, but other than that, I’ve been plodding away steadily at my typical 1,000 words/day rate. I’ve got several projects up in the air at the moment, all of them in different stages of development.

  • MEMORY THIEF 2: Yes, this is still happening. No, I don’t have anything else I can tell you about it at the moment. The movie adaptation of the original is still moving forward, but I don’t have any updates on that either, alas. Some of it is due to Fox being acquired by Disney, but that’s all I’ve got for you at the moment. Sorry. The book is done, though there might be a bit more polishing that happens as soon as the publication date is set.
  • MURDER CASTLE: I’m actually working on this at the moment. I got the latest feedback from my agent last week, and I’m busy incorporating those changes. It’s not a huge rewrite. I hope to be done with it in a couple of weeks, at which point it’s likely the book will be ready to go out on submission. (Yay!) Reading it through again as I go, I’m really excited for this one, and very hopeful you get to see it published.
  • UTOPIA: Is with my agent at the moment. I believe it’s my . . . third draft? Something like that.
  • INCIDENT AT OAK CREEK: Is a short story that I just signed a contract for last week! It’s the Latter-day Shaolin work: steampunk alternative history adventure horror. The usual. It’s actually quite long for a short story. 11,000 words or so, which makes it technically a novelette, I believe. Not sure when the anthology will be published, but rest assured I’ll let you know when it is.
  • SILVERADO: This is the codename I’m giving my YA steampunk book that I was working on right before I transitioned over to edits on MURDER CASTLE. It’s actually a sequel of sorts to INCIDENT AT OAK CREEK. It shares a few characters and the world/history, but it’s a different point of view and main character, which makes a huge difference. I’m 40,000 words into it. I’d guess it’ll end up being around 60,000 words, but we’ll see how long the action sequences take. I was just getting to the good stuff when I had to set it aside. I’m excited for the book.

That about sums up where I am with current projects. After SILVERADO is done, I’m not sure what I’ll work on next, as far as novels go. But for now, I’m probably set until at least the end of the year.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

All Hail the Victor

March Madness has come to a close. It was a pretty bad year for my bracket, right up until the end. I only picked 5 out of 16 for the Sweet Sixteen, for example. That’s pretty miserable. 2 out of 8 for the Elite Eight. 1 out of 4 for the Final Four. But that 1 was Villanova, who I picked to win it all, so when Villanova did win everything, I shot up to finish up 4th out of 16 in my blog bracket challenge.

But 4th is not 1st, and this year Betsey Hyde emerged the victor, snatching victory right out of the hands of Kevin Albert, who’d had a fair run up until then. (Sure, just 8/16 for Sweet Sixteen, and 3/8 for the Elite Eight, but 2/4 for the Final Four, and he picked the championship game exactly.)

So congratulations, Betsey. You’re officially in the acknowledgements page for MEMORY THIEF 2. (Now if I could only announce what the title is for the book and when it’s coming out . . . )

Thanks to all who participated, and better luck to all of us (except Betsey) next year!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. Plus, did I mention the sweet perks like exclusive access to unpublished books, works in progress, and Skype visits? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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